Mesa picked to win RMAC in baseball, softball
Returning players have come to expect being favored to win the conference title, but it’s something Colorado Mesa baseball coach Chris Hanks addresses regardless.
The Mavericks received seven of the eight first-place votes and are favored to win the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title again this season.
“We address it every year,” Hanks said. “Every year we have new players that don’t understand it. We let the new guys know about the history of the program and make sure they understand in our league we get everybody’s best effort.”
Colorado Mesa, ranked 16th in the preseason national rankings, finished the 2013 season 45-11, winning the RMAC title and qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
Hanks has six returning starters in the field, two starting pitchers and some relief pitchers.
“I think our personnel is good enough to do some outstanding things,” Hanks said. “Whether or not they jell as a team, whether or not they buy into what the coaching staff is selling is up to them. We have some very good kids we’ve recruited. They’ve got to learn the expectation level.”
CSU-Pueblo received one first-place vote and is favored to win the Plains Division. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team or players in the polls. New Mexico Highlands is picked third.
Colorado Mesa is in the Mountain Division with Colorado Mines, Regis and Colorado Christian.
Mavericks junior shortstop Nate Robertson is the RMAC preseason player of the year. He received several awards last year, including ABCA All-America, All-South Central Region, RMAC player of the year and RMAC All-Academic. He hit .381 with 13 doubles, five home runs and 47 RBI.
“Nate’s a great competitor,” Hanks said. “He’s a leader on and off the field. He really wants to win and he’s a team guy. He operates well within our system.”
Robertson made the preseason All-RMAC team with a quartet of seniors: outfielders Garrett Carpenter and Austin Kaiser, and starting pitchers Joey Danner and Kyle Davis.
Colorado Mesa is also favored to win the RMAC this season, receiving nine of the 13 first-place votes.
“It’s a great feeling to have, but it’s not this poll that matters,” second-year coach Candace Abrams said. “I love embracing that challenge and that pressure of having that target on our backs. It’s going to be fun talking to the girls about the challenge ahead of us. I hope this is something that sets their mind in what we’re trying to do here and that’s create a championship program.”
CSU-Pueblo is picked second, Adams State third and Colorado Christian fourth.
The Mavericks have their pitching staff and several position players returning from a team that finished 28-17-1 (24-11-1 in the RMAC) last year.
“We have a returning staff in the (pitching) circle and we only lost three starters,” Abrams said. “We didn’t have many holes to fill. It was such a young team to begin with, it’s just going to be a little age maturing that shows. With the way we took on conference last year opened some eyes to the other coaches as well.”
Senior pitcher Jessica Severinsen returns and is the RMAC preseason pitcher of the year. The NFCA All-South Central Region selection was 19-6 with 123 strikeouts and a 2.31 ERA last year. She also hit .388 with 14 home runs to lead the Mavs.
“It’s a great opportunity for her to shine in her senior season,” Abrams said. “She’s got the tools. We just got to keep her healthy and on the right track.”
Severinsen made the RMAC preseason all-conference team along with sophomores Nicole Robinson (first base) and Makayla Kovac (shortstop).
Colorado Mesa moved up to No. 4 in this week’s USA Today/WBCA women’s basketball rankings. Gannon (Pa.) University, which was No. 2 last week, lost 75-72 to Edinboro (Pa.) University last week, dropping the Golden Knights to No. 5. The three teams below them moved up one spot, with Bentley (Mass.) University still No. 1 at 16-0. Emporia State (Kan.) University (17-0) is No. 2 and Nova Southeastern (Fla.) University (14-0) No. 3.
The Mavericks were ranked as high as fourth last season.
Two other South Central Region teams are in the top 20 — No. 7 West Texas A&M (13-1) and Tarleton State (13-2), which slipped from a tie for 14th to No. 17.